Big Ideas and Small Production Values at Battery Day
Oct. 6, 2020—It was, as they say, a mixed bag for Tesla following its highly anticipated Battery Day event. CEO Elon Musk led a presentation that was casual, and at times seemingly ill-prepared, in front of a parking lot full of properly distanced Tesla cars. The introductory video, as streamed on YouTube, played out without audio for viewers. Presenters gave unpolished speeches uncharacteristic of a major corporation. At the event itself, those in the gallery of drivers seats honked in lieu of applause.
The headlines of the event did in fact reflect impressive tech developments going on at Tesla. Musk and Tesla SVP of Powertrain and Energy Engineering Drew Baglino offered the broad strokes on plans to produce cheaper, more efficient batteries. A part of that plan is to produce a much cheaper Tesla for the broader public—one that could cost as little as $25,000.
For those still looking to invest big bucks, Musk also announced a Model S “Plaid” that will have a starting price of around $140,000.
Tesla’s proprietary battery cell is called the 4860. The company says the battery is promising six times the power, 16 times the range and five times the energy capacity.
It also doesn’t use cobalt, as reported in The Verge, which is crucial in bringing down the cost. Removing cobalt is also done in an effort to avoid exploitative, or even dangerous, practices in the sourcing of battery materials.
“This is not just a concept or a rendering,” Baglino said. “We are starting to ramp up manufacturing of these cells at our pilot 10 gigawatt-hour production facility just around the corner.”
Tesla is hoping to be producing its $25,000 model in three years with the help of its new battery design.
Musk tempered high expectations before Battery Day even began, tweeting that their coming announcement wouldn’t be production-ready for a few years.
As that reality played out, company shares fell in value after the presentation. Though, as CBS News reported, the company’s stock is doing quite well overall during a pandemic year.
Adding insult to injury, Tesla had major network issues a day after its presentation. As Elektrek reported, customers were unable to do network-reliable tasks like access vehicle features via the app, which for many includes the vehicle key function.
Overall, there’s certainly no signs of slowing for Tesla. The company’s aim for a cheaper battery in production and in vehicle use is a huge hurdle for the electric vehicle industry currently. And by bringing battery production in-house, Tesla is looking to secure itself into the market for a long time.
Skeptics have accused Tesla of making big promises in the past and then changing them or backing down. This new battery development will certainly be a test of that theory. One thing Musk himself noted during the presentation was that research and development is on difficult phase, but it’s not as tough as bringing those technologies to a mass market.
“The hardest thing is scaling production, especially with a new technology,” Musk said. “It’s insanely difficult.”